Sentience in Farm Animals:

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Geese
 

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Sentience in Farm Animals main introduction

Sentience in Poultry: main introduction

Animal Rights: Geese

Interesting Facts About Geese:

The life expectancy of geese may be as long as fifty years.

When only 1 day old goslings are able to dive and swim 30 to 40 feet underwater.

The Greylag goose was the first bird to be domesticated in India from which with the exception of the Chinese goose, all geese are descended.

To mate and give birth geese return to the general area where they where born.

A baby goose is called a gosling. A male is called a gander. A group of geese is called a gaggle

With the exception of swans, geese fly higher than any other bird

Geese are water fowl but spend most of their time on land, much of their day spent foraging for food. Geese particularly like to feed on grass and often choose a body of water near to grass lands where there is an abundance of grazing. Geese it seems like fertilised grass and therefore you may find them on any well kept piece of grass such as a golf course and even your own garden. 

Sentience is obvious in geese as it is in all birds, with out sentience, conscious awareness, many of the behaviours of geese would be impossible. Take for instance their ability to co-operate and show compassion and altruism.

Geese, who are highly sociable animals, are able to co-operate with one another, like ducks, geese travel in a V formation. Flying in this way is beneficial to the whole flock as it facilitates ease of flight because it adds at least 71 per cent greater flying range than would otherwise be the case if each goose flew alone; the flapping of the wings of one goose generates uplift for the goose behind. Geese swap places at the front position of the V when the lead bird becomes tired. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. The geese behind honk to encourage those up front to maintain speed.

Flight formation in geese is good example of a number of the goose's abilities: co-ordination, organisation and team work, to achieve a goal that benefits all. Here is another. Whilst the group, called a gaggle, of geese are feeding at least one goose will stand guard, a sentinel against any predatory threat. They have an incredible sense of sight and hearing and issue out a very loud warming honk in the event of danger. Wherever geese congregate other birds will visit the pond or lake to take advantage of this early warning system.

Geese are compassionate creatures, capable of altruistic behaviours. For example about two of them will leave the flight formation if one of their number becomes ill or is wounded, for example by gunshot, and falls out of formation, staying with him until he recovers and than all rejoining the original group if possible or joining another group or continuing the journey together.

Rather like ducks, geese it seems are aware when the hunting season is upon them and will find sanctuary in a safe place on private land, such as farm sanctuaries, private lakes and the like where they seem to know they will be safe. Geese it seems have learnt this from past experience. Surely such abilities demonstrate consciousness awareness and the ability to reason and be aware of what takes place in their environment and its effect on them and how to respond accordingly. Such information may quite well be passed on from one generation to another, much the same as we teach our off-spring how to avoid danger. Animals including birds pass on important information from one generation to the next as is the case of Swans who reside at the Bishops Palace Gardens in Wells, Somerset, who ring a bell for food. Swans in the nineteenth century where trained to do this and now the present generation of swans continue to do so having learnt this from their ancestors.

It would be a incredulous to consider that such sophisticated
co-operation such as flight formation and other behaviours could result from some kind of automated instinct.

The ability to feel emotion and altruism is another indication of sentience which as we have seen already presents when one member of a flock is incapacitated during flight. Geese show astonishing loyal to their families, they are extremely protective of their partners and offspring often refusing to leave an injured or sick partner or their youngsters behind, even if winter is approaching and the other geese in the group are migrating. Geese form strong family bonds and couples pair for life. Each year the couple will raise a new family together building a nest on the ground near the water in isolated spots. If one partner dies the other will wait several years before choosing another mate but some remain single thereafter. A male goose is very protective of his mate and will defend her at all cost standing between her and any threat. Geese mourn the loss of a partner and unhatched eggs by secluding themselves from others of the flock. Konrad Lorenz an Austrian zoologist often regarded as one of the founders of modern ethology, the scientific study of animal behaviour has no doubt that geese mourn the loss of a partner, he describes how the greylag appears when in a state of grief:  "the eyes sink deep into their sockets, and the individual has an overall drooping experience, literally letting the head hang."

Geese return to the area where they where born to mate and nest even travelling 2000 to 3000 miles to do so, in the case of migratory geese. The female goose uses down plucked from her body to construct her nest, where she will lay one egg each day until a cull clutch of up to five eggs have been laid. After which for the next 28 to 30 days she sits on her nest to protect and incubate her eggs. If she needs to leave the nest she hides it from view by covering it with sticks which also help keep the nest warm. However she is not alone in her endeavour and somewhere close by her mate stands guard, but in such a way that he will not give away the nest's location to a predator, he may float off shore on the lake or pond watchfully guarding the nest. Quick learners, the baby geese (goslings) are able to swim and dive to a depth of 30-40 feet within one day after being born!  After about 2 to 3 months they are able to fly. They do not however leave their parents and will follow them back the following year and find mates and have families of their own. It appears from research that geese have to teach their off-spring migration routes.

"The new findings of researchers are a far cry from the conceptions espoused by orthodox science. Until very recently, scientists were still advancing the idea that most creatures behaved by sheer instinct, and that what appeared to be learned behaviour was merely genetically wired activity. Now we know that geese have to teach their goslings their migration routes. In fact, we are finding out that learning is passed on from parent to offspring far more often than not and that most animals engage in learned experience brought on by continued experimentation and trial-and-error problem-solving."
Extract Man and Other Animals, Jeremy Rifkin, Guardian Unlimited.
human animals, nonhuman animals, animal sentience,

Here is a moving Poem about the love of a goose for his partner which changed the attitude of a hunter.

A Hunter's Poem
Lem Ward Crisfield

A hunter shot at a flock of geese
That flew within his reach,
Two were stopped in their rapid flight
And fell on the sandy beach.


The male bird lay at the water's edge
And just before he died,
He faintly called to his wounded mate
And she dragged herself to his side.


She bent her head and crooned to him
In a way distressed and wild,
Caressing her one and only mate
As a mother would a child.

Then covering him with her broken wing
And gasping with failing breath,
She laid her head against his breast
A feeble honk ...then death!


This story is true though crudely told,
I was the man in this case,
I stood knee deep in snow and cold
And the hot tears burned my face.


I buried the birds in the sand where they lay,
Wrapped in my hunting coat,
And I threw my gun and belt in the bay
When I crossed in the open boat.


Hunters will call me a right poor sport
And scoff at the thing I did,
But that day something broke in my heart ...
And shoot again??? God forbid!!!

goose, geese, hunting, hunter.

Finally a delightful story of altruism and compassion, although on the behalf of swans towards a goose in distress it is relevant nonetheless as these birds are very similar as both belong to the same biological family, Anatidae. This family includes duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans.

The extraordinary account is told by an observer who quite by chance was looking out of her window on a cold winter's in Maryland day when she saw a goose became trapped in the ice. Swans passing by encircled the plighted goose and landed. Fearing that the swans where about to attack the goose the observer was instead amazed to find the swans where making a rescue attempt.

Instead, amazingly, those bills began to work on the ice. The long necks were lifted and curved down, again and again, it went on for a long time. At last, the goose was rimmed by a narrow margin of ice instead of the entire creek. The swans rose again, following the leader, and hovered in that circle, awaiting the results of their labors. The goose's head lifted. Its body pulled.  Then the goose was free and standing on the ice. He was moving his big webbed feet slowly. And the swans stood in the air watching.

Then, as if he had cried, "I cannot fly," four of the swans came down around him. Their powerful beaks scraped the goose's wings from top to bottom, scuttled under its wings and rode up its body, chipping off and melting the ice held in the feathers. Slowly, as if testing, the goose spread its wings as far as they would go, brought them together, accordion-like, and spread again. When at last the wings reached their fullest, the four swans took off and joined the hovering group. They resumed their eastward journey, in perfect formation, to their secret destination.

The Above extract is from Tender Moments by Charlotte Edwards'

Read the complete Article Tender Moments: Charlotte Edwards

Geese are amazing creatures, who has not stopped to watch the familiar V of migrating Geese. Bar headed geese are able to fly at incredible heights of nearly 30 thousand feet on thier migratory path across the Himalayas, where winds blow at 200 miles an hour, the oxygen is only one third of that at sea level and the temperatures plummet to the severest of extremes.  Despite such harsh conditions every spring flocks of bar headed geese fly over this inhospitable environment as the make their way their way from the lowlands of India to their nesting grounds in Tibet. With a tailwind they can make this trip of over 1000 miles in a day.

How can we consider for one moment that these birds are not truly sentient, really alive in so many ways that far exceed our own levels of awareness.

Isn't it time to accept the sentence of these and all creatures instead of seeing them as food producing machines in the most barbaric of ways such as the tortuous process to produce foie gras and down feathers: Animal Rights Geese

References and Links :

Animal Facts - Geese

About Ducks and Geese

Audubon: Birds

Credits: Photo by Wikimedia commons contributor User:Fruggo

File:Goose Fruggo01.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under:

Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic